The video above, believed to be from 1958, shows erstwhile Egyptian President Gamal Abdel Nasser regaling a big crowd with an account of the demands made on him by the Muslim Brotherhood. "In the year 1953," he says, "we really wanted to compromise with the Muslim Brotherhood (al-Ikhwan al-Muslimun in Arabic)," an organisation founded in Egypt in 1928, "if they were willing to be reasonable".
Describing his encounter with the head of the brotherhood, he tells the crowd how the first demand made was to make it mandatory for women to wear the hijab, that every woman walking down the street wear a "tarha". His anecdote, though told with a straight face, has the crowd erupt into laughter. And someone from the audience screams, "let him (the leader of the Muslim Brotherhood) wear one."
Nasser has a strong legacy in the Arab world. An electrifying speaker and a firm proponent of secular governance, he led the ousting of Egypt's British-backed monarchy in July 1952. Though a practising Muslim, he was wary of using Islam politically.
His fiercest opponents inside Egypt were the Muslim Brotherhood, which had supported the army in the overthrow of the monarchy. An assassination attempt on Nasser in 1954 by a member of the Brotherhood led to the organisation's being banned, and many of its members imprisoned.
In the 1950s the middle and upper classes of Egypt considered the proper role of religion to be private, outside the realm of government and politics. However, it's possible that Nasser's suppression of Islam has had a cascading counter-effect since then.